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“Women in Hinduism” – Part II

10 April 2009 662 views 27 Comments

*** GUEST POST by Sh RAJU MALIGER ***

In my previous article (pl. see A rebuttal to Abul Kasem – “Women in Hinduism” by R Maliger), I had refuted Abul Kasem’s derogatory views on women in Vedic culture. In this article, I would like to emphasize on how Vedas glorify Mother Goddess and women.

When we enter Hindu temples, it is a blissful scene to observe a female deity worshipped alongside a male deity. Common examples of such deities are Vishnu-Lakshmi, Radha-Krishna, and Shiva-Parvati. Vedas consider male and female of all forms of life as the inseparable wheels of a cart. In the last 2000 years, two Semitic religions have destroyed innumerable civilizations, religions, and cultures that worshipped nature and Mother Goddess. Hinduism is the last of such religions that has survived the test of time despite facing vociferous attacks from such cults. From time immemorial, Mother Goddess has been worshipped as Shakti (power) and Annapurna (provider of food). Gayatri Devi, who is revered as the MOTHER of all Vedas, is worshipped in four forms: (1) Satyavati (2) Angavati (3) Anyavati (4) Nidhanavati. It is a well known fact that most of the Indian rivers bear feminine names. Some of the common examples are Ganga, Yamuna, Sindhu, Saraswati, Godavari, Kaveri, Tapati, Tungabhadra, Malaprabha, Ghataprabha, Payaswini, and Narmada. If Vedas were to denigrate women, then there shouldn’t have been verses praising them. Let us examine how the core of Vedic scriptures describes Mother Goddess, women, and family life.

Mother Goddess and nature: There is common Vedic saying- Matru devo bhava, which means ‘Treat your mother as God’. The earth is affectionately referred to as Mother Goddess in Yajur Veda1 and eulogized for bearing all types of mortal creatures.2 She is revered for bestowing health and wealth to mankind.3

The Goddesses of the Vedas are regarded as the immortals that nourish mankind with all needs.4 In Rig Veda5, dawn (Usha) is revered as the Mother of Gods that bestows boons to succeed in life. She is affectionately praised as the Heaven’s daughter, who is arrayed in garments of light.6 She is the birth-place for morning,7 the one who awakens every living creature,8 the Lady of all earthly treasures,9 one who is auspicious and the source of pleasant voices,10 and the Goddess that shines upon men who perform sacred duties.11 In Hinduism, even though all the rituals are performed in the presence of Agni (fire), the purest of all, yet Vedic sages place Agni as a child on the lap of Goddess Aditi12 since the latter causes Agni to kindle.13 Further, it is stated: “Agni is the deity, Goddess Gayatri the metre, and the worshipper the vessel of the silent offering.”14 Indra is considered to be the Chief of all the Gods in the scriptures. However, Vedas declare that Goddess Saraswati, along with Ashwins bestowed Indra with brilliant light and power, and planted wisdom in his heart.15-16 In fact, Goddess Aditi is considered to be the beloved of all Gods.17 At every home of Hindus, while performing any homa (prayer) ceremony, Goddess Saraswati is invoked to bless the family with knowledge, strength, and effectual speech.18 Goddess Lakshmi is the bestower of fortune and wealth to mankind19-20 and is capable of driving away poverty and hostility.21 She is regarded as the power that drives away hatred22 and the one who provides boons and happiness.23 Therefore, in Shukla Yajur Veda Ida, Saraswati, and Bharati—the three Goddesses—are glorified with Vedic hymns.24

A mantra in Atharva Veda refers to earth (Bhûmi) as the Mother of all creatures.25 Further, an environmentalist’s vision is echoed in a heartfelt manner: “Let what I dig from thee, O Earth, rapidly spring and grow again. O Purifier, let me not pierce through your vitals or your heart.”26 This should serve as a warning to mankind which is currently involved in digging earth to extract vast petroleum resources, thereby polluting the environment and causing global warming. The 2006 UN Report on global warming states: “raising animals for food generates more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, trains, ships, and planes in the world combined. Livestock sector is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of both methane and nitrous oxide emissions.” Respecting such facts, knowingly or unknowingly, no meat is served as feast in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist temples across the world. Vedic scriptures advise everyone to avoid the consumption of meat. To remain in the mode of goodness it is essential to be compassionate towards animals. To confirm these facts, Sri Krishna declares in Bhagavad Gita27: “If one offers me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.”

Women, men, and family life

There are innumerable verses in the Vedas supporting and glorifying family life. Manusmriti declares: “Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers-in-law, who desire welfare and prosperity. Wherever women are honored there Gods rejoice; but where they are not honored, no sacred rite yields rewards.”28 True to this, every Hindu wedding, ceremony, and ritual is associated with honoring women with gifts and praises.

Vedas strictly recommend a marriage ceremony before beginning the journey as husband and wife. There are many poetic and knowledgeable verses to confirm this. At the time of wedding, the groom addresses the bride affectionately: “Sweet are the glances of our eyes, our faces are as smooth as balm, within your bosom harbor me; one spirit dwells in both of us.”29 In a loving response, the bride says to the groom: “I envelop you with this robe, which was inherited from Manu, so that you may be mine alone, and never admire another one.”30 It is still a common practice in Hindu marriages to join the hands of bride and groom through a robe before they circumambulate the Yajna kunda (ritual place). After marriage, they are blessed to lead a happy married life. Home, the place where every family dwells, is associated with divinity and is addressed beautifully in Atharva Veda: “O Queen of the home, my sheltering and kindly Goddess, you were created by the Gods in the beginning. Clad in thy robe of grass be friendly-minded, and give us wealth with great heroes and facilities.”31

It may so happen that some men and women may not be able to find a suitable life partner for various reasons. For such people, Atharva Veda describes a helper that tries to address such problems. The helper, Aryama, is described as follows: “Here comes Aryama, with his locks of hair loosened over the brows, desiring to find a husband for this maiden, and a wife for an unwedded man.”32 It is still a common practice in India where a mediator talks to prospective bride and groom, and their families. Then, both bride and groom talk to each other and discuss about their likes, dislikes, and compatibility. When both the couple and families agree, a Vedic marriage ceremony is conducted to unite the two souls. The mediator is felicitated with gifts for initiating nuptial developments. Now-a-days, with the advent of internet, the mediator is replaced with match-making sites. However, this happens only in urban areas.

Once the marriage is over, how does the bride enter her husband’s home? Atharva Veda describes it poetically: “Just like the vigorous Sindhu river (feminine) herself winning the lordship of the stream, O woman become the imperial queen when you have come within your husband’s home, and through love bear control over your husband’s sisters, brothers, and mother.”33 It should be noted here that Ralph Griffith’s website incorrectly refers to Sindhu as a male. The husband then addresses to his wife: “O bride! I take your hand in mine for happy fortune that you may reach old age with me as a partner; Gods- Aryaman, Bhaga, Savitar, Purandhi- have given you as my household’s mistress. By rule and law you are my wife- the master of my house. Be it my care to cherish her. Brihaspati has made you mine. You live a hundred autumns with me and my sons.”34

The newly-married woman is then blessed to lead a long life in a verse from Atharva Veda: “Wake to long life, watchful and understanding, yea, to a life shall last a hundred autumns. Enter the house to be the household’s mistress. Let Savitar bless you with a long life.”35 For a happy married life, she is advised as follows: “Saying your prayer for cheerfulness, children, prosperity, and wealth, and devoted to your husband, gird yourself for immortality.”36 Now, it is the turn to bless both husband and wife for a blissful married life: “May you two, waking up in your pleasant chamber, both filled with laughter and cheer, and enjoying mightily, having good children, a good home, and good cattle, pass the shining mornings.”37 Atharva Veda imparts the knowledge for a successful married life: “Prepare, you twain, happy and prosperous fortune, speaking the truth in faithful utterances. Brihaspati makes her husband dear to her. Graceful be these words the wooer speaks.”38

Once the marital life begins how should be the relationship between husband and wife? The answer is expressed poetically in Atharva Veda, where the husband addresses his wife: “I am this man, you are the dame; I am the psalm and you the verse. I am the heaven and you the earth. So will we dwell together here, parents of children yet to be.”39 The next stage of the nuptial bond is procreation and is addressed beautifully in a verse from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: He embraces her saying, “I am the vital force, and you are the speech; I am Saama, and you are Rig; I am heaven, and you are the earth.”40 In Vedic scriptures, Saama Veda represents the ecstasy of spiritual knowledge and the power of devotion. In fact, Sri Krishna declares in Gita “Of the Vedas I am Saama-veda.”41 If Rig Veda is the word, then Saama Veda is the song or the meaning. Rig Veda is the knowledge, and Saama Veda is its realization. Finally, Rig Veda is the wife and Saama Veda is the husband.

As householders in a married life, what are the norms for Yajna ceremonies? Rig Veda clearly advises every husband to be accompanied by his wife during every Yajna ceremony.42 Further, it is declared that from time immemorial, the matron of the house attended the Yajna ceremony and then partook feast.43 If the husband is not interested in participating in such ceremonies, then wife should assume the lead role. Rig Veda confirms this: “Many-a-times woman is more firm and better than the man who shuns away from Gods and does not offer sacrifices (yajna).”44 Further, Atharva Veda states: “Let the man offer Vedic prayers in front of her, behind her, at your centre, and at her ends. By doing so, let God’s inviolable grace illuminate her home with good fortune and dignity.”45 Sayanacharya, the 14th Century Vedic scholar from India, comments on Rig Veda (5.61.8-9) that the wife and husband are equal halves of one substance. Therefore both should join and take equal parts in all religious and day-to-day work. Pious couples are recommended to pray to Goddess Gayatri to beget courageous children.46

Once children are born, the number of members in a family increases. Isn’t it essential to maintain a harmonious relationship amongst different members of the family? Here is a gem from Atharva Veda: “Let the son be loyal to his father and of one mind with his mother. Let the wife speak to her husband words that are sweet like honey and gentle. Let not a brother hate his brother, nor a sister hate her sister. Unanimous, united in aims, speak your words with friendliness.”47 Further, Manusmriti emphasizes on honoring female relations in a society. It declares “The houses, in which female relations, not being duly honored, pronounce a curse, perish completely, as if destroyed by magic. Hence, men who seek their own welfare should always honor women on holidays and festivals with ornaments, clothes, and food.”48

Agriculture is the backbone of any civilization, and Vedic civilization is not an exception but a frontrunner. The Vedas fully support an agrarian lifestyle to promote self-sustainability and green revolution. Here is an extraordinary verse from Atharva Veda that promotes such a healthy lifestyle: “This woman utters prayers, as she throws the husks of corn: Long live my husband, may he live a hundred years.”49

Conclusion: Honoring every living being, promoting knowledge and healthy lifestyle, and finally attaining salvation through yoga is the essence of the Vedas. Live and let others live through mutual understanding and respect is the slogan of Hinduism. Vedas do not ridicule the followers of other faiths by classifying them as heathens, pagans, idol worshippers, kaffirs, and hellfire-fit candidates. In fact, Vedas declare: “Let knowledge come from all sides, and that truth is one, but wise call it by many names.” However, in this quarrelsome age, we find many charlatans from Semitic religions twisting the verses from Vedas to portray them in an unpleasant manner to harvest the souls of the gullible people. Therefore, it is highly essential to critically analyze the verses from the Vedas to avoid being cheated by such degraded people.

References

1. Yajur Veda Taittiriya Samhita 4.1.9
2. Atharva Veda 12.1.15
3. Saama Veda 4.1.5.2
4. Yajur Veda Taittiriya Samhita 5.1.11
5. Rig Veda 1.113.19
6. Rig Veda 1.124.3
7. Rig Veda 1.113.1
8. Rig Veda 1.113.4
9. Rig Veda 1.113.7
10. Rig Veda 1.113.12
11. Rig Veda 1.113.18
12. Yajur Veda Taittiriya Samhita 1.5.3
13. Rig Veda 1.113.9
14. Yajurveda Taittiriya Samhita 3.1.6
15. Shukla Yajur Veda 21.53
16. Sama Veda 1.2.4.10 & 4.1.16.1-3
17. Shukla Yajur Veda 11.61
18. Yajur Veda Taittareya Samhita 1.8.22
19. Yajur Veda Taittiriya Samhita 3.3.11
20. Saama Veda 4.1.5.2
21. Yajur Veda Taittiriya Samhita 4.6.3 & 5.4.6
22. Rig Veda 4.52.4
23. Shukla Yajur Veda 28.15
24. Shukla Yajur veda 27.19
25. Atharva Veda 12.1.63
26. Atharva Veda 12.1.35
27. Bhagavad Gita 9.26
28. Manusmriti 3.55-56
29. Atharva Veda 7.36.1
30. Atharva Veda 7.37.1
31. Atharva Veda 3.12.5
32. Atharva Veda 6.60.1
33. Atharva Veda 14.1.43-44
34. Atharva veda 14.1.50-52
35. Atharva Veda 14.2.75
36. Atharva Veda 14.1.42
37. Atharva Veda 14.2.43
38. Atharva Veda 14.1.30-31
39. Atharva Veda 14.2.71
40. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 6.4.20
41. Bhagavad Gita 10.22
42. Rig Veda 3.53.4
43. Rig Veda 10.86.10
44. Rig Veda 5.61.6
45. Atharva Veda 14.1.64
46. Shukla Yajur Veda 4.23
47. Atharva Veda 3.30.2-3
48. Manusmriti 58-60
49. Atharva Veda 14.2.63

*** End ***

Related Posts:

A rebuttal to Abul Kasem – “Women in Hinduism” by R Maliger

The last word on “Water”

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27 Comments »

  • 1. Anonymous said:

    *** COMMENT EDITED ***

    Trackback spam

  • 2. Indian said:

    Assuming I may have missed reading this point in above post, like to add- before we enter any home for residing in it, young girls keeps the “Kalas”(not Homa). And those who has boys will ask their families and friends to bring their young daughters for placing kalash.

    So one can say boys are discriminated in hinduism not girls or woman.

  • 3. Kiran P said:

    > idol worshippers

    I would like to highlight this “idol” misnomer. True equivalent is “murti”. Like the other day someone said “Bhagwaan’ instead of “Lord”. “Sewa” instead of “Charity”. We need to get our vocabulary right. Since we Hindus generally say idols the Christists use their dogmatic logic to prey on us – converting the idolators. Here is a nice article on this topic, may be you can turn this into a blog post.

    http://www.boloji.com/hinduism/102.htm

    *** NOTE by MODERATOR ***

    Kiran: The article you refer is already on this blog: Excerpts from “Word as a Weapon”.

    Thanks

  • 4. Incognito said:

    …it is a blissful scene to observe a female deity worshipped alongside a male deity. Common examples of such deities are Vishnu-Lakshmi, Radha-Krishna, and Shiva-Parvati. Vedas consider male and female of all forms of life as the inseparable wheels of a cart. In the last 2000 years, two Semitic religions have destroyed innumerable civilizations, religions, and cultures that worshipped nature and Mother Goddess…

    Very true.

    In fact, in following the footsteps of the westerner, indians have abandoned their ancient indian culture that considered all women other than one’s wife as mother.

    Such a concept is alien to indian society today.

    The extent to which this tendancy to ape westerners have gone is demonstrated by the recent incident when a woman minister of cabinet exhorted women to ‘pub-bharo’.

    Ancient indians gave equal status to women and men alike as demonstrated in the veneration of Shiva in ‘Ardhanareeswara’ form.
    Shiva is also revered as the Linga resting on Yoni, illustrating the concept of oneness of opposites.

    Brahmav, the creator is respected along with Saraswati- the knowledge that facilitates creation.
    Vishnu the sustainer is respected along with Lakshmi- the wealth that is necessary for sustaining creation.
    Shiva the destroyer of creation is likewise respected along with Parvati, the single minded devotion to achieving Shiva consciousness.

    By contrast, the western world view characterised by christianity, islam, and communism looks at women as subservient to man.

    While India had a woman prime minister, though due to dynastic effect, within 19 years of its independence from britain, Britain had its first woman prime minister 13 years after India.
    America is yet to have a woman president.
    Soviet Union never had one.
    Communist China hasn’t either.
    While various states of Indian Union has had women CMs, Kerala and West Bengal, the ones with maximum communist presence never had one.

    Indian culture has number of spiritual leaders which includes many women, Mata Amritanandamayi being a recent example.
    Christianity on the other hand never had a woman pope. In fact, the fate of Joan of Arc is sadly demonstrative of the attitude of Christianity towards women.

    Islam is even worse in its treatment of women.

    Capitalism and materialism are other western world views that treat women as objects.
    Women are encouraged to consider themselves as objects and indulge in dressing up like that so that whole lot of make-up products and ‘designer’ dresses can be sold to them. Concurrently such women are also made to consider visting pubs as being modern and ‘forward’. The recent underwear campaign publicised by ToI and other ELM is demonstrative of that.

    It is educative to consider what Indians want to learn from what has been demonstrated by the western world views and indigenous indian world view and which one the Indians want to adopt.

  • 5. Krishnadas said:

    Hare Rama Hare Krishna.

    Interesting post. One must admire gving money and knowledge both feminine allocations. The moral is that you have to respect both and act with prudence,when you handle money and knowledge. Just see the present way , the banks handled money, it led to financial crisis. Knowledge also if not handled well, then can lead to all sorts of problems. Vinasha kal , veepareetha buddhi says Gita. How true. When you think feminine , you think twice and are very careful. Vedic seers were right on this.

    Ralph Griffith , one must forget those translations. There should be a new start to Sanskrit study and interpretation.

    There is a web site http://www.dharmacentral.com in which there is an article on The Shakti Principle . Please read it . Read “Word as a Weapon also”. Both are excellent articles.

    Hare Krishna. More later.

  • 6. Krishnadas said:

    http://www.adishakti.org/pdf_files/concept_of_shakti_(dharmacentral.com).pdf

    http://www.vinfoindia.com/articles/hindusim_for_women.htm
    article in both one a pdf another a html

    Brilliant, incisive coming from a great scholar.

    Hare Krishna

  • 7. Krishnadas said:

    The pdf link is a problem. Read html article of the above post.

    Hare Krishna

  • 8. Incognito said:

    @ Krishnadas

    The link given at comment 6 above seems to be an abridged version of Dr Frank Morales article The Concept of Shakti:
    Hinduism as a Liberating Force for Women
    available at Dharmacentral website mentioned at comment 5.
    The abridged version seems to miss out certain important ideas available in the Dharmacentral article.

  • 9. eswar said:

    intresting post

  • 10. Hinduism Beliefs said:

    Interesting discussion. Today, the roles of women in Hindu society are changing, as they are throughout the world. Increasingly, the life pattern of females resembles the stages of life for males.

  • 11. B Shantanu (author) said:

    Came across this article on GlobalPost: In India, Love Hurts…which had these lines in the second paragraph:

    For thousands of years, Hindu society had the first problem licked. Marriages were contracts of servitude that sent a daughter off to her husband’s family home with a hefty dowry and the injunction not to complain, because it was a one-way trip.

    I have left the following comment (not yet approved) on the site:

    Jason: I started reading this with great interest but stumbled on this paragraph right at the beginning:

    For thousands of years, Hindu society had the first problem licked. Marriages were contracts of servitude that sent a daughter off to her husband’s family home with a hefty dowry and the injunction not to complain, because it was a one-way trip.

    “Thousands of years”? and “contracts of servitude”?

    I feel this is exaggeration in the extreme…I will come back and write a more detailed comment but would just like to mention a few quick points for now:

    1] India had a long, historical tradition of a woman choosing her own husband (called “Swayamvar”).
    2] Marriage was and remains a sacred ritual, sanctified by tradition…To call it “contract of servitude” is gross distortion of facts and history.
    3] Indian society has indeed faced the problem of diminishing status of women and the problem of “dowry” – However it is niether thousands of years old – nor present in every part/region of India…
    4] Please do have a look at these links and let me have your thoughts

    I look forward to your response – either here or on my blog.

    http://satyameva-jayate.org/2009/04/10/women-in-hinduism-part-2/

    http://satyameva-jayate.org/2009/02/25/abul-kasem-rebuttal-maliger/

    http://satyameva-jayate.org/2007/03/16/the-last-word-on-water/

  • 12. jk (author) said:

    Contracts of servitude? My wife did not sign such a contract. My mother did not. My grand mother did not. All three of them had careers and were equals in the family. Also we follow a matrilineal system in which the mother is more powerful than the father.

    …India is a complex country. You drive a hundred kilometers and the customs and traditions change. If you pick the customs of even a few states and say that it is an Indian tradition, it would be incorrect. The correct way is to say, in such and such region, this custom is there, but in states like Kerala and West Bengal it is different. This would be fair and balanced.

    *** NOTE by B Shantanu ***

    These comments have been extracted from an email exchange with “Varnam”

  • 13. Anonymous said:

    Shantanu,

    Am quite surprised that you actually considered this article worth publishing on your blog. I found the author thoroughly confused (correct me if I am wrong). Does he want to say that the divorce rate in India/Hindus(?) is increasing because:
    - Women are getting educated and hence have become less tolerant
    - Women and their families are abusing the anti-dowry laws to get out of an incompatible marriage
    - People have become more romantic and don’t want to stay with the partners their parents found for them.
    - Wife’s mother is the major reason for breaking of Indian marriages!!! (ha..he must be joking)

    Or there is something fundamentally wrong in our marriages which doesn’t work in the “modern” context?

    I just have to say that even in the modern context Hindu/Indian marriages work better than marriages in any other society in the world. Exceptions are always there…

    Thanks,

  • 14. B Shantanu (author) said:

    @ Anon: It would be helpful to leave this comment on GlobalPost. That is where the article is posted (not on this blog): http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/india/090413/india-love-hurts

    I know JK has already written to the GlobalPost folks

  • 15. PS said:

    Thanks Shantanu…

    I should have done that in the first place. Your site seems to be copy-protected and I can’t life text from here. Will try some other time.

    Thanks,

  • 16. PS said:

    Thanks for emailing me the contents. I have placed them at GlobalPost now.

    Feel free to delete it from your blog.

    Thanks once again.

  • 17. Raju Maliger said:

    Namaste to all! Thanks for all the comments. I was on holidays in India from April 10 – May 3. If you have any comments/clarification, please contact me at r.maliger@gmail.com

  • 18. Sushruta (author) said:

    First off, hats of to Mr. Maliger for exposing the attempts to slander Sanatana Dharma! But I have a few questions…

    If women were so respected, why then does the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad say the following:

    If she does not willingly yield her body to him, he should buy her with presents. If she is still unyielding, he should strike her with a stick or with his hand and overcome her, repeating the following mantra:
    “With power and glory I take away your glory.”
    Thus she becomes discredited.

    As shown here: http://www.gayathrimanthra.com/contents/documents/Vedic-related/brihadaranyaka_upanishad.pdf

    Also, if the Ashwamedha Yagna was corrupted by the Indologists, why then does this picture:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Asvamedha_ramayana.JPG

    which predates the British Raj, depict a queen killing the horse?

    And why does this coin from Samadragupta I’s reign (also predating the British Raj) depict both the queen and the horse?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ashvacoin.jpg

    And why do the Mahabharata and Ramayana contain mention of queens like Kausalya and Draupadi participating in the rite? For more information, see here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashvamedha

    Is that also Indologist corruption? Could someone please post the correct version of the Ashwamedha Yagna? Thanks!

  • 19. B Shantanu (author) said:

    Some excerpts from the book ‘Opposition to Manu Why?’ By Dr.Surendra Kumar, former Principal, Govt.College Gurgaon and author of Vishudha Manusmriti (Without Interpolations) published by Arsh Sahitya Prachar Trust,Khari Baoli, Delhi):
    “It is clear that the internal evidence of the Manusmriti that the anti women picture of Manu presented by some is baseless and contrary to facts. The provisions concerning women in Manu have been inspired by his sense of respect, justice and goodwill and his concern for their security and equality with men. Here are some facts of evidence in support:-
    Maharshi Manu is the first great man of the world to have given the society the highest ideal about women which adds remarkably to the dignity, status and self respect of women.
    Yatra Narestu pujyantey ramantey tatra devata
    Yatreta too na pujyantey sarva tatrafla kriya. (Manusmriti 3-56)
    The correct meaning of the verse is: Gods (who stand for divine qualities, good deeds, sweet nature and blessings for the family, for obedient children and other coveted possessions) make their abode in the household in which women are treated with respect. However, where they are not shown any respect, all ventures and undertakings end in a smoke. There can be no better proof to show the reverential attitude of Manu towards women than the extremely respectful and beautiful adjectives used for women by him. He says that women in the family are instrumental in bringing good luck to the household, they are respectable; they are illuminating by their very presence and decorative in appearance they are a symbol of prosperity they are the mistresses and the sole managers of the household; they are heavenly in influence; they are conducive to a smooth worldly journey (ix-11,26,28;v-150). He adds that people wishing for their welfare must respect women, and that those families and households in which women have to suffer slights, go to dogs. According to him the real happiness and welfare of a household lies in the happiness and welfare of the women in it (Manu Smriti III-55-62). So he instructs the husband and the wife in the household to remain happy and satisfied with each other, not to act against each other and not to indulge in any such activity as may lead to their separation (Manu Smriti IX-101-102).

    Only one verse will suffice to bring out Manu’s feelings:
    Prajnarth mahabhaga pujhra grihdipatya
    Istriya triyashc geheyshu na visheshosti kashchan (Manu Smriti 1-26).
    It means that women bring good luck to a household through procreation; they deserve respect and reverence; they irradiate the house with their presence. In fact there is no difference between the goddess of wealth and women.”

    7. JOINT OBLIGATION AND WOMAN’S INDISPENSABILITY IN THE PERFORMANCE OF RELIGIOUS RITES.

    “The participation which women get in every field of activities of men in India as sanctioned by Vedic religion is of unique nature and is not to be seen elsewhere. Here no religious rite, no social ceremony and no household venture can be accomplished without women being associated. Manu also has the same creed to propound. So he entrusts the job of accomplishing religious rites and ceremonies to women, and gives directions that such rites should not be carried out without their participation. (IX-11,28,96)/ During Vedic period women enjoyed all rights such as the right to study the Vedas, right to the wearing of YAJNOPAVITA(sacred thread), right to doing YAJNA(sacrificial ceremony), etc. They used to embellish the position of Brahma (the director) in the yajna ceremony. They would acquire the position of seers (exponents) of Vedic hymns after having received high education. Manu who regarded Vedas as of AXIOMATIC AUTHORITY in all religious matters was a great advocate of high education and all religious rights for women as ordained in the Vedas. That is why he rules that all the rights relating to women should be carried out under their own supervision with the chanting of Vedic hymns by them (II-4,III-28).”

    British researchers like Wooler, J.Jolly, Keith and MacDonell and the Encyclopaedia Americana also accept that the Manusmriti carries a large number of interpolations.
    Maharshi Dayanand, the founder of the Arya Samaj regards only the original and interpolations-free Manusmriti as authentic. He has pointed out some interpolated verses and has urged scholars to identify other such verses for expurgating this great work.
    Mahatma Gandhi in his book entitled ‘Varna Vyavastha’ accepts that the objectionable verses found in the Manusmriti are subsequent motivated insertions. Dr.Radhakrishnan, Rabindranath Tagore and other national leaders and scholars too are of the same opinion.

  • 20. Sudeep said:

    Dear Shantanu

    Its Really Disappoint to State that Whenever you talk about so called Hinduism and culture you and every one start ranting about the this scripture , that scripture , veda , upanishad , etc etc ,

    Is Hinduism any thing to do with these scripture ,is Indian society build or our tradition build from these scripture , we didnt follow the tradition just because its mentioned in some books that too 10000 years back , that not the case , we follow something because our ancestors did it , and tradition keep changes according to the present circumstances , present knowledge and present scenario .

    just because christanity , and islam have the holy book ( because its a religion ) that doesnt mean that we indian must proove that we also have the Holy books and we also folow the books which written way back , dont repeat the mistake what Arya Samaj and Raja Ram Mohan Roy did , ( i hope you know how sati system started and how raja ram mohan roy win the Case against Sati System and asks the Britis Govt to stop it , as it has nothing to do any thing with English education )

    I think in today Era the knowlege what we have about our own culture is biggest threat , We dont have any problem with Christianity and Islam , as because our culture defeated the both convincingly way back .

    What islam and christianity failed to achieve in India from 2000 years RSS , Hindu fundamentalist and the people like US ( Who limit indian culture to some books , and whenever we talk about hindism start ranting about scriptures ) achieved in 60 years . we are the more threat to indian culture than from Islam and Christianity

    Sudeep

  • 21. agore03 said:

    Hi Shantanu,

    Please refer to point # 18 by Shusruta. He has pointed out the links which describe the Ashwamedha Yagna, especially the one on Wikipedia.

    The description of the Yagna and the ritual is similar to the write up used by Abu Kasem on his blog. These writings were refuted by Mr. Maliger.

    Why doesn’t Mr. Maliger then change the Wikipedia entry and provide the correct interpretation of the Yagna and the verses used.

    Thanks,

  • 22. B Shantanu (author) said:

    Agore03: I am not sure about Sh Maliger but surely there is nothing to stop any of us (including you) from doing this? Let me know if you are able to make these changes on wikipedia..thanks

  • 23. B Shantanu (author) said:

    Reproducing here 2 comments I made on a separate forum:
    1] The deeply regressive feudal culture that is widespread in N India is not “Hindu” culture – it is the remnant of whatever was able to withstand the barbaric and brutal onslaught of relentless invasions driven by an ideology that had no respectable place for a woman..
    2] More than a thousand years back, “Devala rṣi wrote a text called The Devala Smṛti in which he prescribed that a woman does not lose her sanctity when she is raped..” This is Hindu culture.
    As an aside, pl do read “Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine in the Aftermath of Delhi Gang-Rape” http://j.mp/Wo964e by Kalavai Venkat.

  • 24. B Shantanu (author) said:

    Placing this link here for the record: Don’t like this temple? Choose another by Madhu Kishwar, dat 17th Jan 2013 from which the concluding lines:
    “…In the Hindu faiths, nothing is written in stone. Devotees have the right to dictate their deities to change with changing times. But they can’t be ordered around by those who only have contempt for them. They cannot be bullied into surrendering their unique

    Being and become colourless and soulless robotic creatures that yield to every new wave of political fashion we import from our intellectual mentors in distant lands.”

  • 25. B Shantanu said:

    Excerpts from Gazing upon the Mythic Woman, By Devadutt, Published in Devlok, Sunday Midday, Jan. 20, 2013:

    Lakshmi sits at the feet of Vishnu. “Patriarchy!” someone shouts.

    Kali stands on Shiva’s chest. “Female power!” someone cheers.

    Shiva as Ardhanareshwar, half a woman. “Gender equality,” someone asserts.

    These images are at least a thousand years old. They are as popular today as they were then. So what do they say about Indian society? Patriarchal? Matriarchal? Gender-sensitive? All of the above? None of the above?

    All of the above confuses us, as Indian society is undoubtedly patriarchal, but not as uniformly and universally as media would like us to believe and the West is eager to publicize.

    My answer would be: none of the above.

    But my voice will not be heard.

    For I follow the Indian way of seeing which celebrates the symbolic, the subjective and the subtle not the modern (read Western) way of seeing which is rooted in the literal, the objective and the mathematical. The Indian lens allows us to find infinite meanings in the scriptures. The Western lens permits only one, preferably one that is simple, easy to understand, hence popular.


    The more you study Indian scriptures, the more you realize that things are not what they seem: a rock is not a rock, a tree is not a tree, Ram is not a man, Sita is a not a woman, Hanuman is not a monkey, violence is not violence, lovemaking is not lovemaking.
    ….

    Yes, Hindus worship rocks. But no, Hindus do not worship rocks. Yes, Hindus worship Ram who abandoned his wife. But no, Ram did not actually abandon his wife. Yes, Draupadi was disrobed by men in public. But Draupadi is not actually a woman and Krishna is not actually a man. These conflicting confusing ambiguous Indian statements made by many a scholar makes sense one you learn to do ‘darshan’.

    So the same Ramayan can come across as a patriarchal document, matriarchal document, gender-neutral document, spiritual document, uplifting or degrading appointment, depending on the nature of the observer’s gaze. Like the idol of the deity in a Hindu temple, meaning comes from the devotee. As many devotees, as many evenings. There is not just the one.

  • 26. B Shantanu said:

    From Widows Peak? Women Without Husbands Allowed To Perform Religious Rituals At Hindu Temple In Southern India, By Palash Ghosh, October 07 2013:
    An historic event of sorts took place over the weekend in southern India when two widows performed religious rituals at a Hindu temple. At the beginning of Mangalore Dasara, an annual Hindu festival, two widows – identified only as “Lakshmi” and “Indira” — conducted religious ceremonies at the Kudroli Shree Gokarnanatheshwara Temple in Mangalore in the state of Karnataka, after four months training as priests….

  • 27. B Shantanu said:

    From India’s female Hindu priests challenge age-old tradition by Feelix Lobo, Mumbai India August 8, 2014:
    …V.L. Manjul, research scholar and chief librarian at Pune’s Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, estimates that India now has around 1,600 of them. In Maharashtra alone, “some 600 women have been trained as purohits [priests],” he says.
    Scholars, sociologists and theologians emphasize that no Hindu scripture prevents women from assuming the role of a priest. Pune-based Thatte’s Shankar Seva Samiti and Jnana Prabhodini are two leading schools that seven years ago formally began to train women to conduct rituals, prayers for initiation, engagement, marriage, conversion, house warming, ancestor worship and last rites. Women here undergo the grind of studying Sanskrit, learning by heart all the verses from ancient texts that are necessary to conduct ceremonies. The issue of women priests led headlines last week after a 900-year-old temple in Maharashtra’s pilgrimage city of Pandharpur appointed one, breaking its centuries-old tradition of a male Brahmin priest leading ceremonies.

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